Sunday, October 16, 2011

Teenagers, technology and the comics



"Zits" by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman is a comic strip that I read regularly and enjoy very much. I mostly like it because the main character, Jeremy, is a typical teenager who reminds a great deal me of my sons when they were his age, and his parents' reactions to situations he creates mirror my own experience as a parent. Clearly the creators understand what it is to be like to be the parent of a teen in this day and age.

This week there were 3 consecutive strips that struck me as particularly applicable to two things about which I am really sensitive: growing old and being technologically challenged. The perspective that Jeremy brings to these topics puts the divide between teenagers and their parents in stark relief; we are growing "old" while they are growing "up" and the technological "generation gap" is, it seems, insurmountable. Check out the strips copied above to see what I mean.

These three strips all gave me that, "Yeah, that's what I mean!" kind of reaction. I mean, EVERYBODY my age needs reading glasses but NO teenager can possibly imagine what that's like, or that they will one day be in the same boat! And in my house nothing more starkly defines the technological difference between me and my sons then the telephone! I can remember when "cordless" was high tech and "wireless" was science fiction! My sons will probably never have a "land-line", and there may come a time when they only remember them from "the good old days".

So when I see Jeremy needling his dad about how obsolete the phone book has become, I can relate - to the dad, that is. In fact I just had a conversation with my younger son telling him to stop calling "411" every time he wants a phone number since those calls cost almost two bucks each (guess who pays the wireless bill), while the phone book is free. And when how to make a long-distance call has to be explained to a teenager ("You have to dial a "1" first...") and "nation-wide calling plans" have replaced even the concept of "long distance" for him, well I just don't see how we old folks are ever going to bridge that gap.

So there in the panels of a daily comic strip I confront experiences that occur in daily life in my reality. And seeing them there puts things back in perspective for me: my experiences/frustrations/joys are not uniquely mine - they are typical of parents of teenagers everywhere, and this gives me a better understanding of my own experience. And it helps me cope with situations that might otherwise drive me nuts - instead of getting all worked up over typical teenage (even though my younger is now 20) behavior, I just think about how Jeremy's parents might react if he did something similar. It's nice knowing that my incredulity at teenage behavior is not all that unusual. And if I can laugh at it in the comics then I can laugh at it in real life, too - and that seems a lot better than getting upset, don't you think?

5 comments:

  1. I just HAD to post a comment, as I LOVE this strip too. Although my son is now almost 38, with kids of his own, I can still relate to the relationship between Jeremy and his parents. Even now my son, who always has the latest communication technology almost before it hits the shelves, thinks his mother is back in the dark ages. Texting on my little 4 year-old cell phone is something I almost never do, as it lacks a proper keyboard. He delights in telling me that soon I won't be able to type on actual keys at all - it will all be touch pads. My emails go unanswered for days as he is busy instant messaging his equally wired up/in friends and colleagues. Messages left on his home phone suffer the same fate.

    Technology seems to have made the generation gap even wider than it naturally is - particularly as the devices and attendant "apps" and their capabilities change almost overnight. I sometimes fear that when my grandchildren are teenagers they will not even know what "face to face" communication is.

    (PS. Loved your previous blog entry about the bath and the dogs. I think they get worried when you are in a place you are not normally found in - my darling, long-departed bearded collie, Ceiligh, used to come in and rest her head on the edge of the bath, too, just moving her eyes, looking a little concerned. The only trouble was that, although she could easily OPEN the door, she failed to CLOSE it on her way out!

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  2. @Pippin, it's nice to hear from you! I haven't seen you here or over at Rex's place lately so it's good to know that you are still reading. Hope to see you here again soon - Dirigonzo

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